Looming fears of oxygen shortage in Pakistan as Covid-19 cases soar

By: News Desk      Published: 02:05 PM, 24 Apr, 2021
Looming fears of oxygen shortage in Pakistan as Covid-19 cases soar
File photo.

The countrywide surge in coronavirus cases has led to the fears that Pakistan may soon be facing a shortage of oxygen, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Saturday. 

Sources have told 24News TV channel that even the oxygen producers have now started expressing apprehension that adequate gas would not be available for the coronavirus patients in near future. 

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, on the other hand, has warned of further deterioration in the situation that if the number of cases of the pandemic does not come down within a week.   

The situation has come to such a pass that there are reports that when the hospital staff at Islamabad’s largest hospital Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) pumped additional oxygen into the pipes, the pipes burst, thus putting the lives of coronavirus patients at risk. 

Read More: Protests disrupt Covid-19 oxygen supply

The same is the situation at hospitals in Karachi where too the oxygen is in short supply. 

The situation is dismal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as well where due to the increasing number of Covid-19 patients landing at the hospitals during the last one-and-a-half week, the consumption of oxygen has been up by 83 percent. 

According to estimates, the daily consumption of oxygen at the province’s eight big hospitals has jumped from 40,000 liters to 72,500 liters.  

Only at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, 66 percent increase in daily demand for oxygen has been noticed.   

Similarly at Khyber Teaching Hospital, the daily intake of oxygen has jumped from 6,000 liters to 7,500 liters.

Likewise, 23 percent more oxygen is being used at Mardan Medical Complex during the last 12 days while the use of oxygen at Ayub Teaching Hospital, Abbottabad has increased by 66 percent, and at Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital, Bannu by 89 percent.

Oxygen producers in the country warned that Pakistan may also face a severe oxygen crisis if the life-saving gas continues to be supplied for the industrial sector.

An official of Pakistan Oxygen Limited said almost hundred percent of the oxygen produced by Pakistan Oxygen Limited is being supplied to the healthcare facilities due to the rapid increase in its demand after a surge in deadly virus cases.

“Hospitals may face shortage of oxygen in the coming days as we are producing at our maximum. Oxygen produced in Pakistan is used for both treatments of respiratory illness as well as in shipping, welding, and other industrial purposes.”

According to the latest statistics from the country’s top monitoring body, around 5,000 Covid-19 patients are on high and low oxygen throughout the country.

Authorities have also warned that 90 percent of our beds of oxygen facility are already filled. They also urged people to take precautionary measures in this scenario to avoid situations like in the neighbouring country.

The oxygen alarms were sounded in Pakistan after India's daily coronavirus death toll passed a new record Saturday as the government battled to get oxygen supplies to hospitals overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of new daily cases.

Queues of Covid-19 patients and their fearful relatives are building up outside hospitals in major cities across India, the new world pandemic hotspot which has now reported nearly one million new cases in three days.

Another 2,624 deaths, a new daily record, were reported in 24 hours in India, taking the official toll to nearly 190,000 since the pandemic started.

Stung by criticism of its lack of preparation ahead of the wave of infections, the Indian government has organised special trains to get oxygen supplies to the worst-hit cities. 

It has also pressed industrialists to increase the production of oxygen and other life-saving drugs in short supply.

One 'oxygen express' carrying 30,000 litres for hospitals arrived in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh state at dawn on Saturday, where armed guards were waiting to escort trucks to hospitals.

Read More: India Covid surge hits new record as oxygen runs short

Lucknow has been one of the worst hit cities, with hospitals and crematoriums inundated with patients and bodies, and officials said the liquid oxygen would only be enough for half a day's needs.

The Indian air force is also being used to transport oxygen tankers and other supplies around the country.

In New Delhi, the city's government said it would begin setting up buffer stocks of oxygen to speed supplies to hospitals when they are within hours of running out. 

Many patients are dying outside hospitals in the capital because of the lack of beds and oxygen. 

One charity has set up an overflow crematorium in a car park, with makeshift funeral pyres built to deal with the mounting deaths.

Read More: 22 Covid patients die in India after oxygen supply disrupted

Reporters Saba Bajair, Kifayat Shah and Syed Azmat Ali with inputs from AFP